Many SEO projects involve taking a site that has already been built and changing or adding ... elements to help the site rank well in the search engines. For a site that has already been buil
Many SEO projects involve taking a site that has already been built and changing or adding optimization elements to help the site rank well in the search engines. For a site that has already been built, the web designer is usually not involved in the process.
However, there are two situations where the designer should be very much involved in the SEO process: when a new site is constructed, or when an old site is being redesigned.
When building a new site, the SEO consultant should be involved as the site concept is being developed. The perspective of the SEO consultant is much different from that of the design team and the site owner. The SEO understands that a balance of keyword phrases and well-written marketing copy is what helps the site attract traffic and convert visitors into buyers. The SEO can also provide advice on the best way to add new content. For example, a site that is about food will draw many visitors if it has a section that offers recipes, and a site about music will see many more visitors if it also offers MP3 music files.
More importantly, the SEO can provide advice on how to best construct the site. SEO consultants understand that sites which have 100% of the content in Flash, or which use frames will pose problems during the optimization process. The consultant will also understand how to overcome some of the SEO limitations that dynamic sites pose.
When the design team is aware and involved in the optimization process from the beginning, a site can be optimized “from the ground up” as it is being built, which will involve less time spent by the SEO consultant later. This can also provide a level of optimization that is often not practical after a site has already been constructed.
When keyword research is completed before the site construction has started, designers can use them when they create new pages and graphics files in order to derive the benefit of keyword-rich file names. e.g., Instead of using words like “logo” and “header,” the designer can choose keywords that are more descriptive. The SEO can also provide a basic Meta tag set which can be used for the site. By including the Meta tags in the site templates, the work of editing each page later can often be avoided.
What about redesigns?
The first and foremost role the SEO has when a site is being redesigned is to ensure that the web designer doesn't change all the page names when performing a site update. Otherwise, when the new site is launched, the traffic to the site may substantially drop off when people click on search engine listings that no longer exist.
To combat this phenomenon, the consultant will advise the designer to re-use the old page names as much as possible. If that's not possible, there are two ways to deal with this problem:
1)A custom 404-error page can be installed to inform the visitor that the page(s) no longer exist and present them with several options to continue into the site. 2)Redirection pages can be set up which use the old page name and an informative message for the visitor. The pages should offer one or more clickable links, and might include a timed-redirect that should be at least 30 seconds before taking the visitor to the page with the new name.
The second option is more desirable, since it allows the search engine to note the change, follow the link to the new page and add it to its index at some later point. And of course, if new pages are added, or the filenames have to change, it provides a chance to use filenames that can be optimized with keyword phrases.
Just as you are unlikely to turn an SEO consultant into a web designer, you can't turn a web designer into an SEO. However, SEO consultants and designers should work together to bring all of their skill sets to the table. The SEO needs to understand that graphic images can be very important in the visual appeal of a well-designed web site, just as the designer needs to understand the benefit of having a home page title that says more than just “Home.”
Christian Nielsen is the owner of Nielsen Technical Services , which provides Internet consulting and SEO services, including the optimization of dynamic database-driven sites, and Blog optimization. The company maintains a policy of answering questions from clients and potential clients, even if they are just "tire kickers", and has a Blog that can be seen at NielsenTech.Blogger.com which deals with (mostly) search engine related-issues.